Unapologetic progressive. Fearless activist. Plucky liberal.

Only boys can do homework

Or so JCPenney seems to think, according to this shirt the retailer had for sale:

This shouldn't be happening in 2011.

Anyone who thinks sexism is a thing of the past and feminism has won need only look at this to be proven wrong. After a petition brought the shirt to the public’s attention, Penney took it down. But according to the petition, the caption for the shirt to the right was “Who has time for homework when there’s a new Justin Bieber album out? She’ll love this tee that’s just as cute and sassy as she is.”

Not only does this shirt, aimed at girls 7-16, make the assumption that pretty girls can’t be smart girls, it also assumes the brother is smarter than his sister.

Here’s another shirt on sale by Penney, also directed at girls ages 7-16, that pushes the idea girls can’t possibly be good at school. (The text reads “My best subjects: boys, shopping, music, dancing.” As far as I know, only one of those is an actual subject at most schools.)

It should surprise me that in 2011, major retailers such as JCPenney are selling shirts such as these.

It should, but it doesn’t.

It doesn’t, despite the fact more women than men are earning bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees. All you have to do is scroll through the entries at Microaggressions to see how pervasive it still is that women are bubbleheads.

Here’s a thought experiment for you. I’m going to list some of the occupations of my high school acquaintances and friends. You decide which jobs you think are held by men and which are held by women.

Veterinarian. Electrical engineer. Elementary schoolteacher. Construction management engineer. Doctor. Computer science PhD. Citigroup vice president. Self-employed performer. Art teacher.

OK, I’ll give you a couple more seconds to make your guesses.



Done? Is your mental list ready? Here are the results:

They’re all women.

And they’re all so accomplished I’m going to go out on a limb and say that, although some of my friends do have brothers, they didn’t need to rely on their male siblings to achieve their success. Episodes like this make me want to bang my head against the wall and moan in despair that girls and women will ever be taken seriously. But I’ll keep fighting for the day when retailers sell “future rocket scientist” and “future president” shirts for girls 7-16.

In the meantime, JCPenney has lost a customer. Let the store know how sexist it is by contacting the company here. You can read more commentary at Jezebel, Feministing and Shine.


Comments on: "Only boys can do homework" (3)

  1. Great post – J.C. Penney should be ashamed.

  2. Jane McClure said:

    Dad says, “Good for you, Molly,. hang’em out to dry!” We all discussed this shirt issue last night. Lori & Meg hadn’t seen the news article about it yet. So I filled them in. We knew our daughter would take that issue on w/gusto. Someone’s head should roll for making such a bonehead decision to sell something like that. OUCH!

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